All Roads Lead to SBI!
Rome Airport, May 30th 2009
It’s the last day of my 5-day vacation together with Naama, my wife. Unlike last year’s Canadian SBI! Campervan adventure, the purpose of this trip was to take some time off from being mommy and daddy and just be together.
This was our first holiday alone in five years. It’s not that I hadn’t tried to schedule a vacation for the two of us. Every few months I’d bring it up. But Naama wouldn’t hear of it. She’d give me that piercing look and say that “it’ll be traumatic for the girls”. Over the years, I've learned not to mess with Naama when she's (over) protecting our cubs...
I’m not sure how I managed to convince her this time (I think my timing was perfect because she had just finished cleaning the house and the girls, in a sudden whirlwind, overturned everything). But the moment Naama gave the OK, I had to work fast to buy non-refundable flight tickets to somewhere. I had no idea where. And after browsing around I was even more confused by the myriad of destinations that all seemed romantic, wonderful and far enough from home.
But there was one thing missing with all these destinations. I admit that I was also looking for a place where I could meet an SBIer or two on the way.
Last year’s Campervan adventure in Canada helped me realize that what I love most about traveling is not the scenery or the attractions and for sure it’s not the shopping! It’s meeting the people and experiencing their country through their eyes. So, since I’m part of a very special virtual community of people all around the world who share a common passion for SBI, I was scheming to combine our romantic vacation with a very short SBI get-together? (I didn’t tell Naama ;-)
You see, Naama doesn’t know much about what SBI is all about. She knows and appreciates that our Web sites are our main source of income and is very pleased (most of the time :-) to have me working from home. But that’s it. For example, at the end of last year I came to her all proud of myself and told her that in 2008 we averaged 1,415,193 million visitors PER MONTH across our sites! She just said… “That’s nice” and went on with whatever it was she was doing. Truthfully, though, by keeping her distance, I think that Naama serves as a sort of balance to my passionate occupation with SBI.
Ultimately, I found the perfect romantic getaway destination with just a little SBI adventure twist: Tuscany, Italy.
I’ve heard quite a bit about Jim and Fiona from rent-a-villa-in-tuscany.com. They’re long-time SBIers, their case study has been featured since the dawn of SBI case studies, and, they’re really living the work-at-home dream.
It always seems quite awkward for me to contact people I don’t really know and tell them that I’m interested in meeting them. At their place. With my wife. For lunch :-)
It was even harder trying to tell Naama that I’ve set a date to meet people who she doesn’t know. Who I don’t even know. To talk about SBI. During our first romantic vacation in five years…
But I must admit that both Fiona and Naama were fairly cooperative with my little plot. Fiona immediately invited us over and helped us make villa arrangements in the Tuscan countryside. And Naama was so stressed about leaving the girls that I don’t think she really understood what I was contriving (and I didn’t make an effort to elaborate…)
During our first two days in Florence, we spent long hours wandering about the beautiful city, eating gelato (ice cream), drinking wine and just holding hands like teenage lovebirds. I don’t remember when we had so much time to talk and just be together.
Although this beautiful city is packed with tourists, we had a chance to experience just a bit of the real Florence from the local’s perspective thanks to a very special Florence native. When doing some research on Florence, I ran into an SBI site called weekend-in-florence.com created by Filippo. In the spirit of my SBI adventure, I dropped Filippo a line suggesting we meet for a quick coffee. Unfortunately, he replied that he was out of town. But it didn’t end there. A few days later Filippo sends me this detailed and custom-tailored “insider's” itinerary of where to go and what to do to get a feel for the real Florence. I was overwhelmed by this gesture, which proved to me once again why SBIers are a different breed.
From Florence we drove to the Tuscan countryside for another two nights at a beautiful villa situated very close to where Fiona and Jim live (what a coincidence ;-)
At the Tuscan Villa...
Many words have been written about the stunning beauty of Tuscany, but they just don’t do justice. They can’t. Words also don’t do justice to the dream-come-true story of rent-a-villa-in-tuscany.com. You can read Fiona and Jim’s success story and updates over and over and you won’t fully grasp the impact SBI has had on their lives until you drive up the steep bumpy dirt road that leads to their house.
Their traditional stone farmhouse was only 5 minutes away from our villa, but it felt like we were taken 300 years back in time. It’s an 18th century house perched on the side of a hill with views you can only dream of. But I won’t try to draw you a picture with words because there’s no way I’ll get it right. And even the photos you see here aren’t anywhere near what it looks like in real life.
Naama gets a royal tour from Fiona...
Together with Jim. The window behind us is Jim's office and the international headquarters of rent-a-villa-in-tuscany.com :-)
You should have seen Naama the moment we reached the farmhouse. Her eyes lit up and she was speechless. Although Fiona and Jim are in the midst of renovating the house (and Jim claims that he's still got so much grass-cutting to do), it was far from anything we had both imagined. Neither of us had ever visited a real inhabitable house that’s so old. It’s all built of stone, with old stone steps, wooden beams, terra cotta tiles and… a satellite dish internet connection!
I wonder how the previous farmhouse tenants (along with their chickens and pigs…) would react if they saw Jim and Fiona living in the same house, tapping their fingers on some weird (key)board and calling it work.
Oh, how our world has changed!
The mighty Internet has reversed the rules of the game and cast a whole new meaning to the concept of work. What once was inconceivable is becoming a reality for more and more people like Jim, Fiona and myself. Today, unlike never before, you can rent villas in Tuscany, provide party information, sell your goods, promote your services and live your dreams from the comfort of your own home.
You just have to reach out, take a deep breath, and start walking. You’ll soon discover that all roads lead to SBI (even if they’re sometimes steep bumpy dirt roads…).
On our drive back to Rome we couldn’t stop talking about the beautiful morning we spent with Jim and Fiona up in their farmhouse. It made such an impression on us that the implausible actually happened: Naama thanked me for mixing a bit of SBI into our romantic vacation!
Now all that’s left is to catch our flight back home and see what’s up with our "traumatized" girls :-)
P.S. When I got home, a really great email from Jim and Fiona was waiting in my inbox... I'd like to share it with you below.